It was his home for almost all of his 70-year reign: After spending one last night there, Elizabeth II’s coffin left Buckingham Palace on Wednesday to be presented to the British, the last stop before the grand funeral of the ultra-popular sovereign.
In a solemn procession with millimeter unfolding, the oak coffin transported on a gun carriage, and on which the imperial crown had been deposited, left the palace at 13:22 GMT, followed on foot by his four children and his grandsons William and Harry, reputed to be cold but side by side for this historic event.
The procession began by descending the famous Mall, the prestigious artery which connects the palace to Trafalgar Square in central London where thousands of Britons had gathered, before reaching Westminster Hall, the oldest chamber in the British Parliament where the coffin closed by Elizabeth II, who died on September 8 at the age of 96, will be exhibited to the public for a final farewell.
The British are expected by the hundreds of thousands to come and meditate closer to their adored monarch, unanimously hailed for her total devotion to the Crown during her reign.
For the occasion, Westminster Hall will be open 24 hours a day, from Wednesday 5:00 p.m. to Monday 6:30 a.m., the day of his funeral at Westminster Abbey. But you will have to be patient, with long queues that could stretch for about fifteen kilometers.
On Wednesday, there were already thousands waiting on the bank opposite Parliament. The first to arrive had spent the night there.
“The night was cool and wet, but I have a small chair and a big umbrella so I stayed pretty much dry,” jokes at the front of the queue Dan Ford, a 52-year-old retired police officer who arrived on Tuesday. afternoon.
– “Very nice” –
Conversations take place in the queue and with the police officers present, we help each other in a good-natured atmosphere. Some are going to get coffees, others have lent their sleeping bags. “It’s always like that with these royal events,” laughs Rob Paige, 65. “Terrible weather, but very nice!”
The coffin of the Queen, who died in Scotland, arrived in the British capital on Tuesday evening and spent the night at Buckingham Palace, where King Charles III and his family had welcomed her.
On its way to reach the center of the capital, the hearse was cheered by thousands of people.
All the British newspapers published on the front page the photo of the hearse entering Buckingham Palace.
From the start of the procession, Big Ben’s largest bell rang every minute and cannon shots were fired in unison from Hyde Park.
Before her long farewell to the London public, the coffin of Elizabeth II has already been exposed for 24 hours in Edinburgh, from Monday evening to Tuesday. Sometimes moved to tears, some 33,000 people waited for hours to go and gather briefly.
A rock of stability in crisis and change, the Queen has been a reassuring image to millions of Britons during her decades on the throne.
– Rising popularity rating –
On Tuesday, King Charles III visited Northern Ireland, a delicate step in his accession to the throne.
“With a shining example before me, and with God’s help, I take up my new duties determined to seek the well-being of all the people of Northern Ireland,” the monarch told the local parliament there. stopped for months.
After London, Edinburgh and Belfast, Charles III will travel to Cardiff in Wales on Friday, the last leg of his tour of the four British nations.
His popularity rating has skyrocketed since his accession to the throne. According to a YouGov poll released on Tuesday, three in five people think he will make a good king, up from just over 30% a few months ago.
But his annoyance was noticed when signing official documents in Belfast, the king, on the extremely busy schedule since the death of his mother, getting angry at a leaky pen.
Tensions in Northern Ireland, separatist desires in Scotland, galloping inflation: Charles III, who is older than all the British sovereigns at the time of their accession to the throne, takes office at a critical moment.
As the country is in the throes of a severe economic and social crisis, Clarence House, Charles’ official residence when he was still a prince, confirmed that redundancies were “inevitable” among staff when he is expected to move to Buckingham with his wife Camilla, Queen consort.
– Logistic challenge –
Full hotels, disrupted transport, crowded pubs… the British capital is feverishly preparing for the funeral of the century, in the presence of hundreds of leaders and crowned heads, a huge security challenge.
To see the coffin, the government warned of “draconian restrictions”, worthy of airports. The press evokes some 750,000 people ready to brave a wait that could be counted in tens of hours.
The precise queue route published by the government stretches along the south bank of the Thames for 15 kilometers to Southwark Park in the south-east of the capital.
In 2002, around 200,000 gathered in front of the coffin of Queen Mother Elizabeth, presented to the public for three days before her funeral.
The crowd should be even greater for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, the first national funeral since 1965 – those of Winston Churchill.
Some countries, notably Russia, Afghanistan, Syria or Burma were not invited.